A new year can give us the chance to stop and take stock of things.
When we started Ark City Daily Bytes, we set out to create a full-featured multimedia product.
We wanted to pursue an online-first model — where news was timely and not days late — that we thought was missing in Arkansas City.
At the same time, we realized some newspaper readers still prefer to read a hard-copy paper. But cost is a factor for those who subscribe (or choose not to).
Thus our idea was born — in addition to our website, we would print a small smartpaper three days per week, with QR codes linking to expanded online content.
It would be financed solely through advertising and free to the readers, meaning a larger demographic would have access to printed news than before.
We launched our website in May 2016 and started printing the hard-copy paper in June 2016.
The response we saw from readers was amazing. Our readership has been consistently strong since the beginning and continues to grow.
We’ve added more and more distribution locations for people to find our papers, and the number of copies returned has decreased significantly.
But there are a couple of significant factors we didn’t anticipate — namely, the amount of work printing and distributing a paper takes when it’s just two people, as well as the cost and technical challenges of printing the paper three times a week.
While our budget is small by most standards, the rising overhead costs of printing are growing harder to meet.
More pressing than any financial consideration, though, is the fact that we honestly feel like the overall product is suffering because of the extra work it takes to create the printed version.
Let us be clear: We are not closing, nor are we completely ending hard-copy production.
We will, however, lower the number of printed papers we produce by going to just one day a week. We will continue to produce an e-Edition on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but starting next week, we will print the Friday only edition. (This week, we will print today and Friday, but not Wednesday.)
We anticipate that this change will allow us to focus more on finding, writing and publishing even more high-quality content.
We hope that we will be able to spend less time fighting printers and more time producing extended e-Editions that contain more stories and pictures.
Even more important, we want to turn our attention more toward multimedia content, such as videos, podcasts, etc. — which was our long-term goal all along.
While these changes might not appeal to all of our readers — and we are sorry for that — we think it is our best option at this time.
But we are not closing the door on the possibility of adding back print production days later, if it becomes financially feasible.
If that is something you would like to see, encourage retailers you frequent to consider us when they make decisions about advertising. Or even just tell them you enjoy reading our paper and would like to see them added as a distribution location.
Additionally, we have had several readers ask if there is a way to donate to our cause. While we don’t ever want to charge for our product, we have decided to add a donation button to our website for those who feel like giving.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers, advertisers and investors from the bottom of our hearts — and especially those who have volunteered so many hours of their personal time to help us to print, fold, insert and deliver newspapers in the last eight months.
This is not the end — it’s simply a new chapter.